A MOOC By Any Other Name…

So I guess it is no secret that some people don’t like the term “Massive Open Online Course” or its common abbreviation “MOOC.” Certainly, it is hard to go to Academic Deans and other administrative positions and ask to teach a MOOC – they will quickly dive for a policy manual to see if you are uttering a racial slur. It just sounds funny to say, especially in many situations.

But I think the biggest problem with the term is that “MOOC” really doesn’t accurately describe many massive, open courses (as David Wiley pointed out in the article linked to above). Now when you are talking about the flavor of MOOCs created by MIT and others, “MOOC” is a pretty accurate descriptor. They are “massive” thanks to national exposure, they are “open” to anyone who wants to take them, they are always “online,” and they are most definitely “courses” with a start point and an end point.

But when you are describing the O.M. – the Original MOOC – the term MOOC usually begins to break down. They don’t have to be “massive.”  They do have to be “open” (and we can pretty much ignore any courses that aren’t – because then it could be just like any other online course). Jim Groom and others have theorized that they don’t have to be “online” – you could set up the O.M. model in hybrid course or even a touring bus for that matter. And calling a MOOC a “course” is more than a bit limiting. Sure there are those that go through a MOOC as a course, with a start and a finish and credit earned and all of that. But some just take part. Some stay in the course even after finishing and make it a part of their life. So MOOCs are really somewhat a course and somewhat not.

So we are really left with “open” and “course.” But we need something to describe this thing – “open course” just doesn’t cut it. Since they are built on connectivism, I guess we could added “connected” in there. But, of course, “Connected Open Course” won’t work. Other than… ummm… obvious reasons… “connected” really sounds more like the way old people described the Internets in the 1990s. And “course” still just doesn’t work. I guess these things are more like experiences. “Open Connected Experience”? Or maybe more like “Open Connectivist Experiments” if you really want truth in advertising? I guess for the admin types you would still need “course” in there – so how about “Open Connectivist Course-Like Experiments”? OCCLE’s (pronounced “oak-lee”… or “oh-slee”)?

Yeah, I guess you’re going to be stuck with a lame name no matter what angle you try…

Matt Crosslin

Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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